Tribe: California Wildfire Near Oregon Causes Fish Kills

HAPPY CAMP, Calif. (AP) — A dangerous wildfire burning in a remote area just south of the Oregon border appears to have killed tens of thousands of Klamath River fish, the Karuk tribe said. .

The tribe said in a statement that the dead fish of all species were found Friday near Happy Camp, California, along the mainstem of the Klamath River.

It’s unclear exactly what is causing the fish to die, but biologists with the tribe believe a flash flood caused by heavy rains over the burned area caused a massive debris flow to enter the river, said Craig Tucker, a spokesman. of the tribe

The Karuk are working with the Yurok, another Northern California tribe, and state and federal agencies to gain access to the fire area and get a better idea of ​​what happened and the extent of the problem.

It is not yet clear whether the fish kills will be localized or spread downstream, affecting more fish.

A photo of the Karuk taken about 20 miles (32 kilometers) downstream from the flash flood showed several dozen dead fish face down amidst sticks and other debris in thick, brown water along the riverbank.

The McKinney Fire, which has burned more than 90 square miles (233 square kilometers) in the Klamath National Forest, this week swept through the picturesque village of Klamath River, home to about 200 people. the the flames killed four people in the small community and burned most of the homes and businesses to the ground.

Scientists have said that climate change has made the West hotter and drier over the past three decades and will continue to make the weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive. Across the western United States, a 22-year megadrought deepened so much in 2021 that the region is now in the driest period in at least 1,200 years.

When it started, the McKinney Fire burned only several hundred acres and firefighters thought they would get it under control quickly. But the storms came with fierce gusts that in a matter of hours had brought it to an unstoppable conflagration.

The fire was 30% contained on Saturday.

The fish kill was a huge blow to the Karuk and Yurok tribes, who have been fighting for years to protect fragile salmon populations in the Klamath River. the salmon is revered by the Karuk tribe and the Yurok tribe, the second largest Native American tribe in California.

The federally endangered fish species has suffered from low Klamath River flows in recent years and a parasite that is deadly to salmon flourished in the warmer, slower-moving waters last summer, killing large numbers of fish.

After years of negotiations, four lower river dams that impede salmon migration are on track to be removed next year in what would be the largest dam demolition project in US history. an attempt to help the fish recover.

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